Veteran Bollywood actor Pran, whose menacing eyes and powerful screen presence intimidated heroes and heroines for decades, passed away on Friday night at Lilavati Hospital here. He was 93.
The ailing thespian, who acted in more than 300 films in a five-decade career, was recently honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
Born Pran Kishan Sikand into a Punjabi family in Delhi, Pran was credited with enhancing the importance of the villain in Bollywood at a time when the bad guy was very much one-dimensional.
Pran worked in a number of films before partition. But his real break came when his friend and legendary Pakistani author Saadat Hasan Manto helped him get a villain’s role in Shaheed Latif’s Ziddi (1948).
Throughout the 1950s, he solidified his reign as Bollywood’s leading villain, culminating in Bimal Roy’s 1958 ‘gothic’ classic Madhumati, which had Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala in the lead.
Pran effortlessly pulled off this coldly efficient menace throughout the 1960s in mega box-office favourites such as Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Half-Ticket (1962) and in Johnny Mera Naam as Dev Anand’s long-separated brother (1970).
He was especially memorable in two films penned by Salim-Javed in the 1970s — as Sher Khan, an outlaw with the proverbial heart of gold, opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer (1973) and as ‘Michael D’ Souza’ in Majboor (again as Mr. Bachchan’s providential saviour).
But he also demonstrated his versatility with roles as a disabled veteran in Upkaar (1967) and as a stern, but loving patriarch in the family-oriented Parichay (1972).
Such was his stature that he was said to be paid even higher than some of the leading men in films — an event that producers carefully kept under wraps over the course of Mr. Pran’s long career.
In 2001, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award. According to his family members, his last rites will be performed on Saturday noon at Shivaji Park in Dadar.